Dapper Bruce LaFitte, formerly Bruce Davenport, Jr., at the Atlanta Contemporary | May 19 – August 7, 2016
IT’S DIFFICULT TO place exhibits in New Orleans at this time of this year outside of the context of The Storm. The subject looms like heavy billowing clouds, densely gray and thickly churning, an extended horizontal weight floating and staying just above our heads. Many of us are walking with eyes cast down, or otherwise away from the reminders of ten years gone. At New Orleans Museum of Art, it is an apt title for an exhibit comprised of work not necessarily about Katrina. At Arthur Roger Gallery, the concept also appears to be at the heart of three exhibitions.
Black lives matter. All lives matter. Both statements are true, but it is astounding that we are still debating the meaning of those words. We accept equal rights in theory, but things don’t always play out that way on the streets.
For the new “art year” in New Orleans kicked off during White Linen Night, Arthur Roger Gallery presents an exhibition featuring three generations of African American artists, including the famous Life magazine photographer Gordon Parks born in 1912 and the native artist Bruce Davenport in 1972. The show gathers a large collection of works from Willie Birch and introduces new pieces from Whitfield Lovell.
Davenport’s dense, intricate art – which these days depicts boxing matches and football games in addition to the local high school marching bands that first brought him prominence – has captured the attention of the international art market.
While it may be best known for its vibrant music scene, New Orleans’ history of visual artists—painters, photographers, sculptors, video artists, and beyond—rivals that of any other city packed with sleek galleries and slick collectors. Though the local art community has lost some of its greatest inspirations in recent months—including George Dureau and George Rodrigue—the fierce passion of the city’s established and emerging artists continues to evolve and make NOLA a hotbed of creative activity. Here are 20 New Orleans Artists You Should Know.
Another Hurricane Katrina anniversary came and went, and once again global news organizations struggled to find new angles on an increasingly old story. This time, the BBC memorialized America’s megastorm by posting a video interview with New Orleans artist Dan Tague, whose prints of dollar bills folded into catchy messages like “Live Free or Die,” or, more darkly, “Trust No One,” were an indirect result of Katrina. Tague survived the floodwaters in Mid-City, where he used a pirogue to help stranded neighbors, but later found himself feeling aimless after the forced exodus. With his studio under water, he began folding dollar bills to pass the time. He eventually turned them into prints, which found their way into major museum collections, and the rest is history. The BBC piece is not only a great survivor story, it also provides an interesting angle on the role money plays in American culture.
Bruce Davenport’s meticulously plotted Bruce Jr. Does the Parades involves ten gloriously large diagrams of revelers and marching bands from an aerial perspective, and seven specifically hung 11×14 details of Mardi Gras. Each framed paper piece is a crisp 60×40 and they are hung in regimented order, like their subjects are arranged in marching band formation. Davenport worked in marker and pen, but the resulting work feels like a reliquary document instead of a teenage notebook. Davenport takes the viewer through the stories of black New Orleanians by narrating the scenes in ballpoint pen.